Ways to Get Your Child to Play Alone

Ways to Get Your Child to Play Alone
María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Children need to play and enjoy quality time with their parents; this undoubtedly helps them grow and develop in a healthy way. However, it is also important for children to work on their independence and learn how to play alone .

There are only a few things in life as special as some good quality time playing with your little child. However there comes a time when your child needs to learn to do things for themselves, even if only for twenty minutes – always under your supervision to make sure everything goes well and to assure that your child is safe and protected at all times.  Don’t forget little children need constant supervision.

8 ways to get your little child to play alone

1. Spend some time alone together in the same room

It’s a good idea to spend some alone time together in the same room while allowing your little one to do as they wish with their toys. This way the little boy or girl can  play on their own while under your close supervision. You can give them some toys or books to read. While being careful not to give them too much, think of concrete play ideas before giving items to them.

2. Be a good example

In order to be a good example, your child should see you doing activities by yourself. This way your child will imitate your behavior. For example,  you can play with their building blocks  while your child is watching, read a book, paint on a piece of paper or drawing board that you have at home that your child could also use. (Remember to buy products that are not toxic or too small to avoid the risk of your child swallowing it).

3. The screen is not a substitute toy

Do not put all your trust in television, telephone games or tablet apps in order to keep your child entertained. This will only shift your child’s dependence from you to the screen. This is not the objective; what you want is for your child to be autonomous, to be able to play freely, invent their own games and to develop their imagination and creativity.

4. Establish a safe space

It is very important to have a safe space somewhere in your home where your child can experiment and play alone without danger and without any risks of hurting themselves. Think about a playground in a well defined space. This could be in their bedroom with everything well prepared so they can experiment without having the risk of hurting themselves.

5. Do not interrupt

If your child is entertained playing alone, do not interrupt them. For example, you can let your child play for an extra 15 minutes even if dinner is ready. Be flexible because these few moments of play time are very important for your child’s emotional development and it also works towards their independence and autonomy. The more they grow, the more important autonomy becomes.

6. Don’t worry about the mess

Don’t get frustrated by seeing a bit of a mess in your home…. Allow a bit of chaos during playtime. The idea is letting go of control of your little one for a little while until they discover the best way to entertain themselves alone effectively. When the game is over, you can give them a cheer and help them clean up their toys, so they can learn about responsibility little by little.

7. Spend quality time with your child

Letting your child spend some time playing alone in order to improve their independence and autonomy doesn’t mean that you need to stop giving them attention because “they need to learn to be alone.” That’s not how it should be. Your child also needs quality time with you, so you should also prioritize quality time with them. The time they spend playing alone should be limited and moreover, they should also enjoy quality time by your side.

8. Little by little

At the beginning it isn’t easy for a child to enjoy spending time alone, that is normal. It could take a few minutes for them to start playing or with just a few minutes of playtime alone they could be more than satisfied. You can start off by planning a few minute of solo playtime, as the days go by you can increase the timeframe until your child finds the balance that suits him or her best.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.